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From An Organizational Issue to a Community Issue: Shifting Volunteer Management

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Brudney, Jeffrey L. and Meijs, Lucas C. P. M. (2013). Our common commons: Policies for sustaining volunteer energy. Nonprofit Policy Forum, published 2013. 

In 2009, Jeffrey L. Brudney and Lucas C.P.M. Meijs proposed a new way of thinking about volunteer resources: as a natural resource which must be managed sustainably or it will be exhausted. In their article, "It Ain’t Natural: Toward a New (Natural) Resource Conceptualization for Volunteer Management" (published in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 38, Issue 4, and reviewed in e-Volunteerism by Steven Howlett), the authors argued that volunteer energy should be viewed as a human-made, renewable resource that people can grown, recycle and influence positively as well as negatively.

Four years later, this Research to Practice presents how Brudney and Meijs now connect this thinking to Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom’s eight design principles for robust resource (common pool) governance. In “Our Common Commons: Policies for Sustaining Volunteer Energy” (published 2013 on the Nonprofit Policy Forum), the authors raise questions related to difficult issues that have not been applied before to volunteer energy. Their intention is this article is to provide new ways of thinking about volunteer energy, and they explore how to translate the idea of a collective approach into policies and governance – developing volunteering policies as part of how community foundations, volunteer centers and governments manage this vital resource. Their insights have us “raise our heads” again, as Steven Howlett put it in his earlier review, and think about what volunteer managers do and how that fits into the broader picture.